A seed of doubt was planted in my tiny mind when someone suggested that V2000 was in fact next weekend. The seed began to sprout when, unlike last year when it took us 90 mins to reach Weston Park & another 2 hours to get it, this year we simply drove straight into the festival site.
It was the right weekend, but the writing was on the wall; a weak line up compared to last year, yep – V99 gave us Suede & the Manics. This year the headliners were a mustered up Travis & Richard Ashcroft; hardly acts with the pedigree of their predecessors. With such a strong line up a week later at Reading (Oasis, Pulp, Placebo, Stereophonics, Primal Scream) you could see why this event wasn’t going to be swelling at the perimeter fence. This of course could only be to our advantage – more space to camp, less queuing etc. but don’t get me wrong, there was still 25,000 people here.
It was a weekend of perfect timings (almost), as you’ll see if you read on. We pitched the tents, positioning them to ensure that the anticipated deluge of rain didn’t send the mud of Weston Park into our sleeping bags at 3am. I questioned the sensibility of those campers who were knocking in their tent pegs directly downhill from the portaloos.
The seasoned festival go-er of course knows all too well that the discomfort experienced from carrying not only your tent & rucksack from the car park to campsite, but also 48 cans of Carling Black Label & 6 bottles of red wine is a necessity. A king’s ransom is asked for festival beer so a back up supply is needed. You can always take the drug option, but that’s not our bag [sic]. That’s why I like V2000 ahead of Glastonbury where you are virtually harassed by pushers, who may as well pitch official stalls; ‘Acid, get your acid.’ ‘Speed, £5 a bag.’ ‘Ecstasy, buy one get one free.’ It’s in your face.
V2000 isn’t like that, OK there’s drugs available if you want them (Fatman was offered some coke, but it turned out to be Virgin Cola), but it’s not in-yer-face. The site is well marshalled; the campsite is overlooked by security, thus lessening the chances of the systematic tent robbing that Glasters suffers from.
As darkness fell we cracked open the first of our cans & knocked the last of our tent pegs (the coat-hanger type that annoyingly bend) into the turf, using my trainer shoe as a mallet. The first spots of rain reached the ground, & we sought shelter in our homes for the weekend.
Festivals are big business, gone are the days when you could paint your naked body the colours of the rainbow & dance around Stonehenge to Hawkwind at no expense. Now its £75 admission, £5 parking, £2.50 a pint, £2 a baguette (50p less than last year). We took advantage of the break in the night weather to browse around the arena, tomorrow when the bands are on there will be marshals at every entrance preventing you taking your own beer inside. We perused around the countless stalls selling trinkets, souvenirs, T-shirts, legal highs, henna tattoos, fat food, Japanese noodles, inflatable chairs at inflated prices. The fun fair provided entertainment, the bungee was breathtaking, and the £20 a jump took my breath away.
There is something comforting of being snug & warm & hearing the sound of pouring rain battering against the outside of your tent. As a child I always felt secure in bed with the rain battering the window. The waterproof spray that we brought for the tent worked a treat as our cocoon kept us dry ar hyd y nos (all through the night).
The lucrative bonus you’d normally receive as a bar attendant by pocketing some of the proceeds of the 250,000 pints of Budweiser sold over the weekend has gone. Aware that they were undoubtedly being ripped off stupid, the powers that be introduced a voucher scheme where you queue for 20 mins to buy beer tokens from a kiosk.
The bands? Oh yeah, was this the reason we gave up our home comforts? Err, not exactly, it was more for the crack. With the price of beer on our minds Fatman showed me the old 2 cans in yer undies method of smuggling beer into the arena; you place a can either side of each testicle (assuming you have two) & support them (the cans) with your sweater wrapped around your waist. The marshals waved us through to enjoy Saturday’s proceedings.
Once inside we chilled out to Bjorn Again – the Abba tribute band better suited to a Butlins Holiday Camp than a rock festival, Fatman had seen them before where they destroyed the stage playing Nirvana‘s Teen Spirit, I waited in disappointed anticipation as it didn’t happen. Shaking our heads in disbelief that the promoters had put the Brand New Heavies on the main stage we left, remembering last year it was Faithless, no comparison. It was perfect timing as we caught a momentous part of history as Coldplay performed that modern day classic, Yellow on the MTV Stage, gone are the days of lighters being held aloft at concerts, now its mobile phones as we broadcast to absent but envious friends what’s on stage. Coldplay apologised for being stage-struck as 3 months earlier they were performing in pubs; it’s my guess they’ll be headlining this stage next year.
With the good ladies despatched on another beer run Fatman & myself took in the end of a superb Cypress Hill set backed by a grunge band. Followed by James, which was a weird feeling, I’ve never seen them before, but watching Tim Booth perform was like seeing an old friend; he didn’t have anything to prove, their songs are lament enough to a band who have seen it all, done it all & have it all.
21 years ago I had the honour of meeting a sweaty punk band who had just come off stage having played to 14,000 punks at Deeside Leisure Centre. Considering their background as being only 2nd to the Sex Pistols in the punk revolution they were very friendly & talkative to a 12-year-old spotty kid with spiky hair.
The Clash were on their London Calling tour & packing out concert halls across the world. Nowadays bassist Paul Simenon displays his artistic merits at art galleries, Mick Jones went from BAD to worse, Topper Headon joined the kind of unethical trades found at Glastonbury, & Joe Strummer formed The Mescaleros & entertained the masses from the MTV Stage.
Again, it was perfect timing, we turned up half way through his set, & with the girls left at the relative safety of the PA desk, Fatman & I took a nostalgic pogo to the front of the crowd to enjoy White Man in Hammersmith, London Calling, Remote Control etc. An argument with the stage manager ensued when Joe went over his allotted 45 mins, regardless the great man gave a couple more classics. All you could see after the show was a sea of 30-something faces leaving the area with grins from ear to ear.
Apart from a couple of splendid collaborations with the Chemical Bros., Beth Orton wasn’t high on our list so we gave her a miss. Having met Paul Weller the same year as I met The Clash, he didn’t so much as speak to me but more grunt so I thought I’d snub him this time. Once again the perfect timing worked a treat as we hit a tent called the JJB Arena just as Death in Vegas were starting their final track, the haunting & daunting Dirge (that’s the one that goes ‘nah na-na’ to you heathens). Sounding excellent with live drums & the acoustics of the huge tent. A couple of pints were squeezed in before the dilemma of watching 45 minutes of Leftfield (by which time they had hardly finished their opening build up track), before Moby was on the MTV (or Peoplesound) Stage. With intoxication setting in I was most upset having been outvoted & was dragged kicking & screaming to watch Moby, I wasn’t disappointed. I did have a brief wander, meandering through the thousands of people watching Moby, to snigger at Richard Ashcroft playing to a poorly attended main stage. What were the festival planners thinking (or what were they taking) when they decided to put a light-weight as the main attraction when you simultaneously have the might of Leftfield & Moby playing a few hundred yards away?
After walking the ladies back to the campsite, we staggered back to the emptying arena in search of the Freaks Tent; last year we enjoyed the exploits of a fire eating babe in a basque who sat on broken glass & then funked out to the delights of Mandragora. This year we encountered bemused stares when we slurred the question,
‘Do you know where the Freaks Tent is mate?’
A strange fuzzy feeling greeted me this morning; I was too comatose to hear someone use the outside of our tent as a urinal during the night, & was too pissed to act on it anyway. Fatman made me a breakfast of a Resolve in an attempt to rehydrate my withered cells (it almost worked). We did a beer count of the day before, the number of cans remaining against the number of Bud vouchers we had bought. It was concluded that we had consumed a frightening 43 pints between the four of us, not really frightening until you discover that the ladies only had 9 pints between them, William ’14 pints’ Hague will be proud of us when I bring it up [sic again] at the next Tory Conference.
With Travis as the obvious main attraction, the day-trippers (or the ‘pink armbanders’) started pouring in, swelling the attendance figures up to last year’s proportions. We could hear Andreas Johnson (who sounds so much like Mike Peters) from the campsite as we packed away the tents, with the 2 hours of my life wasted queuing to get out of the car park last year still festering in my mind I had a plan. Packing the tents into the car & leaving as soon as the headliners finish was the same idea everyone had last year, but this year we had to get one step ahead. I moved the car to pole position near the car park exit; shit, I’ve given the game away – everyone will do the same next year. Being the courier I was unable to partake in today’s alcohol intake proceedings so Fatman, being a considerate mate took the opportunity to get smashed out of his skull, consuming even more than yesterday, hangover or no hangover.
We took a weary look at the Celebrity Football, & although supermodel Jordan did try her best, it did little to stir our loins. They must’ve used ‘celebrity’ in the loosest possible terms unless you feel that the casts of Brookside & Hollyoaks along with ex-Man Utd forward Mickey Thomas are of celebrity status.
Bentley Rhythm Ace won the heart of a doubtful Mrs Crud as we encountered another piece of perfect timing, catching their set 2 songs from the end with Black Grape‘s Kermit as MC & live drummers. All Saints were like Mel C the year before, weak. Girly pop bands & rock festivals don’t mix, however raunchy they try to be. Whose next year, 5ive?
The sun did quite well coping with the sporadic cloud cover of the afternoon. In need of an ice cream to cool the blood I approached one the vans dotted around the festival site.
‘A large 99 please’
‘Two flakes Sir?’
‘Oh yes please.’ I licked my lips as he squirted the soft ice cream into the cone.
‘That’s five pounds please’
‘You what?’ I asked, looking for a candid camera.
‘I’m not paying five quid for an ice cream.’
‘Well how much are you prepared to pay for it then?’
‘Two-fifty, & that’s tops.’
‘No, I can’t accept that.’
‘Well fuck you then.’ And I walked off leaving him with ice cream dripping down his arms.
It had long been decided that the evening was to be spent at the MTV Stage, giving Ocean Colour Scene, Macy Gray (God forbid!) & Travis a miss. I wasn’t too fussed over seeing the Bloodhound Gang; their Discovery Channel single threw up visions of a cheap pisstake boy band that would be better suited in the Comedy Tent (if there were one). However I was pleasantly surprised to find a grunge band full of self-mockery, all too eager to dish it to the crowd. Before proceedings began Fatman was down the front leaning against the crowd barriers & I was chilling to the side on a grass verge. I spotted 2 gorgeous blonde girls in T-shirts, jeans & dark glasses making their way to the front, one of them leant by Fatman’s side & leaned over the barriers, presumably to see who was sitting in the VIP seats, Fatman gave her but a quick glance. The girls then made their way past security to take up their seats; it then dawned on me that they were the Appleton sisters from All Saints. Imagine how they’ll feel when they learn that one of them actually touched the arm of Fatman.
‘Thank you Great Britain,’ announced the Bloodhound Gang’s Jimmy Pop. ‘Thank you for giving we Americans so much, thank you for giving us the English language, soccer & thank you for [sarcastically] Virgin Cola.’
Someone from the crowd shouts abuse & is hauled on stage & offered $100 if he drinks 24 cans of Virgin Cola, he then sits in front of the drumkit to do just that. Perplexed as were the rest of us as to how Richard Ashcroft got 90 mins stage-time & annoyed that Travis demanded superstar status, the Bloodhound Gang entertained us with a conga through the crowd, male nudity, a swimming competition as well as a couple of tunes. Jimmy Pop also invited us to bottle the band & inadvertently set his own hair on fire with lighter fuel.
With the previous day taking its toll on me & Mrs Crud (hey I’m not as young as I used to be) & the 28th pint finding its way into the stomach of Fatman, we decided to sit Mansun out from the sidelines. Having fallen in love with their debut album, despised their follow up, but really liked their latest single I waited with interest. The interest soon waned, Mansun could only disappoint me, and they lacked the balls of a festival band, no bollocks. Mrs Fatman commented that singer Paul Draper was trying too hard to be like Bono, I thought he was more like Wet Wet Wet‘s Marti Pellow. The out of time guitar summed it up as far as I was concerned; they simply didn’t do it for me.
Night had closed in, small fires were being lit everywhere as we tried to keep out the cold, only to be doused by the over vigilant security staff armed with extinguishers.
Fatman mockingly cried over the wet cinders,
‘I loved you.’
As the security staff walked on to piss on someone else’s bonfire.
I thought Supergrass were a strange idea to have as a main act for the MTV Stage; don’t get me wrong, they’re a great band & I really enjoyed their set last year. Three songs in & the rain, which had held off since Friday night began to fall, Mrs Crud & I decided to leave the set to those more faithful. We headed for the car where we performed the final act of perfect timing by closing the car door just as the heavens really opened. Comparable to a monsoon the rain lashed down, the Fatmans arrived 15 minutes later soaked to the skin with the same feeling as 10,000 other people;
‘We like Supergrass, but not that much,’ as torrents of water streamed across Weston Park.
One last point, I can’t write about a festival without mentioning the toilets. Fatman’s solution was to dose himself up with Imodium all weekend, I adopted the sphincter control method, unfortunately for Mrs Crud & Mrs Fatman they had no choice but to contribute to the hundreds of mini-pyramids being formed in the portaloos. Maybe that’s how the Egyptians created their astounding constructions. The pyramids are just huge piles of shit left after a rock festival on the Nile 5,000 years ago.